Language identity in multilingual environments
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Language & Identity in Multilingual Environments. HIF 3620 Representations & Self-Representations Laura A. Janda. Overview. National identity linked to language History of nationalism What is a language? Why is it a core factor of identity? How many languages & countries are there?

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Language & Identity in Multilingual Environments

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Language & Identity in Multilingual Environments

HIF 3620

Representations & Self-Representations

Laura A. Janda


Overview

  • National identity linked to language

    • History of nationalism

  • What is a language?

    • Why is it a core factor of identity?

    • How many languages & countries are there?

  • Matrix vs. embedded languages

    • Colonialism & post-colonialism

    • Group vs. individual interests


Nation, Nationality, and Nationalism

  • Are innovative, recent concepts, artifacts created in late 18th century in W. Europe (Anderson 1991)

  • Prior to the advent of nationality, and in the absence of technologies such as print, railroads, automobiles, how were human societies organized?


Localcommunities

Dynastic realms

Religious communities


Local Community

  • Defined by place – people who are close enough for face-to-face contact

  • Can be multilingual

    Religious Community

  • Defined by faith, but could potentially reach all mankind

  • Often used a sacred language, “superior” to vernaculars

    Dynastic Realm

  • Defined by loyalty to royal leader

  • Eventually took on nationalist features in W. Europe


Nationalism – A product of W. European Romanticism

  • Three German philosophers:

Johann Gottfried Herder

Wilhelm von Humboldt

Johann Gottlieb Fichte


Nationalism – A product of W. European Romanticism

  • Three German philosophers:

Johann Gottfried Herder

“Has a nation anything more precious than the language of its fathers?”


Nationalism – A product of W. European Romanticism

  • Three German philosophers:

Wilhelm von Humboldt

Language is the “spiritual exhalation” of the nation


Nationalism – A product of West European Romanticism

  • Three German philosophers:

Johann Gottlieb Fichte

“Men are formed by language far more than language is formed by men”

German nation and language are superior


A modern definition of nation (Anderson 1991)

  • An imagined political community that is both limited and sovereign

  • Imagined because members cannot all know each other

  • Limited because no nation encompasses all of mankind, nor even aspires to

  • Sovereign because nations came into being during Enlightenment and strive for freedom

  • Community because a nation is conceived of as a horizontal comradeship of equals


What do the people of a nation share?

  • A name

  • A language

  • A territory

  • Myths & memories

  • A culture

  • An economy

  • Rights and duties

An “ideal” nation-state assumes

ONE nation = ONE state

Q: Which are necessary? Which are un/chosen? Which are objective/discrete?


Language (Andersen 1991)

  • A language is a powerful means to root a nation to a past because a language looms up from the past without any birthdate of its own, and suggests a community between a contemporary society and its dead ancestors

  • Poetry, songs, national anthems create a simultaneous community of selfless voices


Why is language a key factor in identity? (Janda forthc)

  • Vehicle for culture (both “C” and “c”)

  • Vehicle of transmission for “wordless” media (dance, cuisine, handicrafts)

  • If language is lost, access to culture is also lost

  • Cultural concepts are embedded in language

  • Language and culture co-evolve, are continuously tailored to each other


What is a language? A dialect?

Q: What’s going on?

  • Mutual comprehensibility?

    • This works for some situations, but are there counterexamples?

  • It doesn’t work for :

    • German (incomprehensible dialects)

    • Norwegian,Swedish,Danish (comprehensible)

    • Slavic (both situations)

    • Chinese

A: IMAGINATION

See Ethnologue's criteria


Problem with the “ideal” nation-state

  • Q: How many countries are there in the world?

  • A: 192.

  • Q: How many languages are there in the world?

  • A: At least 6912.


Why are languages important? (Harrison 2006, Janda forthc)

  • They contain information about culture and human interaction

  • They contain information about sustainable use of niche environments

  • They contain information about the human brain

Languages are repositories of human knowledge

Most languages of the world belong to indigenous nations

Most of human knowledge is in the hands/mouths of indigenous peoples


Matrix and Embedded Languages

  • Matrix – a language that is connected to political structures, that serves purposes of national or regional communication

  • Embedded – a language that is used within a single ethnic group, that is under pressure from a matrix language

Nearly all indigenous languages are embedded languages


Colonialism & Post-Colonialism

  • Colonialism has

    • Created “new” boundaries and identities that persist in post-colonial era

    • Treated indigenous peoples and their languages in different ways

    • Sometimes shifted the identity of languages as matrix vs. embedded


Group vs. Individual Interests for Indigenous Languages

  • Group Interests

    • Preserve indigenous language

    • Have monolingual speakers, transmission to young generation

    • Have education in native language

  • Individual Interests

    • Social and economic upward mobility

    • Fluency in (one or more) matrix language


Bibliography

  • Anderson, Benedict. 1991. Imagined Communities. London/New York: Verso.

  • Edwards, John. 1985. Language, Society and Identity. Oxford: Blackwell.

  • Harrison, K. David. 2006. When Languages Die: The extinction of the world's languagesand the erosion of human knowledge. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Janda, Laura A. Forthcoming. "From Cognitive Linguistics to Cultural Linguistics", to appear in Slovo a smysl/Word and Sense.


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